He studied architecture at the University of Manitoba in the mid-sixties. In 1969, he founded General Idea in Toronto with Felix Partz (Ron Gabe) and Jorge Zontal (Slobodan Saia- Levy). In the spirit of the collective, each artist adopted a pseudonym and forged a new identity. Their group identity undermined the traditional notion of the artist as a solitary genius.
General Idea’s work comments on mass media and popular culture. General Idea produced work in every conceivable medium, during their twenty five year association – pioneering video and performance work as well as producing artist’s books, photographs, sculptures, multiples, prints as well as installations, and public art projects. The group was also instrumental in founding Art Metropole in 1974, an archive comprised of multiples, artist books and printed matter at a time when such material was being overlooked by many museums.
Influenced by semiotics, they sought to examine and subvert social structures, taking particular interest in the products of mass culture. They began publishing their ideas and work in File, a quarterly journal published in Toronto.
In the 1970s, General Idea focused on beauty pageants. The first pageant, the 1970 Miss General Idea Pageant, was performed at the Festival of Underground Theatre in Toronto. The performance, which resulted in the nomination of Miss General Idea 1970, mocked the beauty parades. The 1971 Miss General Idea Pageant, which followed, represented the photographic submissions of thirteen artists. These entries were exhibited and judged at The Space in Toronto.
From 1971 to 1977, General Idea presented a series of performances and exhibitions for the future 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant and Pavilion. The exhibitions included designs of the architectural setting for the pavilion. In 1977, at a large site in Kingston, Ontario, they enacted the destruction by fire of the 1984 pavilion. Later in a series of 'archaeological' exhibitions, they documented the destruction of the pavilion and its retrieved fragments. The first of these was the exhibition Reconstructing Futures of 1977. Later, in works such as The Unveiling of Cornucopia, 1982 they exhibited these images in the guise of rescued mural fragments. In the late 1980s General Idea turned away from the beauty pagents and focussed their attention on the AIDS epidemic.
Geneal Idea ended when Felix and Jorge died of AIDS in 1994. AA Bronson now works as a solo artist.
General Idea was the recipient of many awards, including the International Video Art Festival Portopia Award (Kobe, Japan, 1981), the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (1988), the City of Toronto Lifetime Achievement Award (1993) and the Bell Canada Award in Video Art (2002).
© Arne Svenson Photographer
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, 16 June 1946
One Year of AZT: Managing Aids with Pills. (2 min 24 sec)
One Year of AZT: Colour. (0 min 30 sec)
One Year of AZT: Audience Reactions (1 min 25 sec)
One Year of AZT: Vacuum formed Plastic Capsules. (0 min 23 sec)
Calling ourselves ”General Idea”. (0 min 44 sec)
Library and Archives